Tea Interview with Marie Lecrivain
1. For unfamiliar readers' sake, please start by sharing some words about being the executive editor of poeticdiversity (www.poeticdiversity.org), the site's origins, and its mission (if any).
L.A. has a rich cultural heritage, reflected in its art and writing. However, because L.A. is so far-flung - geographically speaking - there are many artistic enclaves, especially in the poetry scene, and it's almost impossible to get to them all.
Anyway, when I entered the poetry scene in Jan 2002, I was excited by all the diversity, but saddened by all the division. There is so much debate here about what is "poetry," especially in academic circles, which seem reluctant to acknowledge slam/spoken word as a legitimate part of the modern poetry genre. The slam scene kicks ass and has a LOT of talent, but from what I have seen and experienced, is somewhat insular.
I thought it would be cool to produce a literary publication that had slam poets, academic poets, and those ones in the middle (like 90% of the ones that appear in poeticdiversity) that could be revealed, read, and appreciated. For the first issue (November 2003), I featured Rachel Kahn, a prominent LA slam poet, Mani Suri, the co-host of the Rapp Saloon in Santa Monica, and Buddy Love, an academic and New Formalist. It wasn't until the first issue was online that I realised I'd actually done it...and I would have to continue.J
have to say that I couldn't do this without the help of the poetic diversity
staff: Laura Lionello (poetry editor), Douglas Richardson (associate editor),
and Francisco Dominguez (art editor), and last but certainly not least, Reggie
Ige, the webmaster who is so patient and kind, and is lends a very understanding
ear to my occasional...well, frequent rants.
Your favorite author(s) and book(s) and why.
My favorite authors and their books are: Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), Douglas Coupland (Life After God), Katherine Neville (The Eight), Harlan Ellison (Strange Wine), Alexander Trocchi (Thongs, Cain's Book), Henry Miller (The Devil in Paradise, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare), Robert Heinlen (Have Spacesuit, Will Travel), Marie Ponsott (Springing), David St. John (Study of the World's Body), and Rainer Maria Rilke (Sonnets To Orpheus).
Each one of these writers has a) an absolute commitment to Truth, b) have
mastered the art of existing simultaneously in both the physical world and
metaphysical world, c) each one has a wicked sense of humor...and it's reflected
in all the writing I mentioned above.
3. Your favorite music/musicians.
favorite musicians tend to be like my favorite writers-lyrically speaking. I
love David Bowie. I could listen to him all day - and have. I tend to like David
Bowie's earlier work, before Ziggy Stardust. Most of his lyrics could be read as
straight poetry, like my favorite song, Karma Man (Starting Point -1964):
"Fingertip sun at sideshow stalls, they throw the balls
At coconut fur that hides behind coloured shades that blind your eyes
Every child's mother holds an ice-cream cone, they circle round
Perceived unknown by an eye that peers from a hole in the tent where no one goes
A figure sitting cross-legged on the floor he's clogged and clothed in saffron robes
His beads are all he owns
Slow down, slow down
Someone must have said that slow him down
Slow down, slow down
It's pictured on the arms of the Karma Man
Fairy tale skin, depicting scenes from human zoos
Impermanent toys like peace and war a gentle face you've seen before
Karma Man tattooed on your side, the wheel of life
I see my times and who I've been I only live now and I don't know why
I struggle hard to take these pictures in, but
All my friends can see is just the pinkness of his skin
Slow down, slow down
Someone must have said that slowed him down
Slow down, slow down
It's pictured on the arms of the Karma Man"
I gravitate toward artists who are dark and dingy...ha! Kidding! I mean dark, but strong, uncompromisingly honest, and passionate; like Nico, Annie Lennox, and Sinead O'Connor. I also listen to a lot of Middle Eastern music, because it's so sprightly and ALIVE, like the music of Omar Faruk Tekbelik (from Turkey), though I suppose it's not very 'pc' of me to listen to the music of that isn't "American-approved"...whatever.
4. Your new e-chapbook, poetry whored, is now online at Tamafyhr Mountain Poetry (www.tmpoetry.com). Curious title, needless to note. So I tritely ask, what inspired the title?
It's funny - at least to me-that the title is from the only 'prose' piece in the collection! The title was inspired by a lot of poets I know - both male and female - who are afraid that intimacy with another person will take away their creative edge. I'm actually working on the female P.O.V. of poetry whored, but won't have it done for a while. I took me almost a year (Dec. 2003-Sept. 2004) to finish the first one, so who knows how long the sequel will take (god, I sound like an arrogant bitch)!
In my own personal, though limited experience, artists of the same discipline often are not able to function in a relationship, besides friendship. There is too much competition, and the need for solitude, which artists of all disciplines crave. I wrote that particular piece to remind me of this quirk in poets (myself included). Unfortunately when I read it at poetry readings, I get a lot of dirty looks. I'm not trying to take a dig at anyone. I'm just telling the Truth as I've experienced it.
us a bit about the book and the production process.
I wanted to put together second collection of poetry, especially of work I've held back from getting published, because I wasn't ready to show it to anyone. I also liked the idea of an e-chapbook, because more people have access to it. I'd been published twice in the Tamafyhr Mountain Irregular Poetry Journal. I spent some time perusing the e-chapbooks Kenneth Gurney (the editor of TM Poetry) put together, and asked if he would be willing to put together a chapbook for me. He told me to email him between 30-45 pages of poetry. He'd read the work, and decide if he would continue based on what I sent him. I spent a couple of days sifting through the 'vault' (that's what I call the disk I keep my poetry onJ), and sent him what I thought was a good and varied selection of work.
He took some time (I think about three days), and then emailed me back. He liked half of what I sent him. The other half, in his opinion, needed a quite a bit of editing, or wasn't acceptable for publication, in that it didn't seem to fit in with the half he liked. He sent me a first draft in a pdf file, which had very detailed comments/suggestions on what he thought were the weak points in some of the poems.
Well, that hurt, but I knew he was actually doing right by me as an editor. I took a look at the poems, realized he was onto something I hadn't seen: Some pieces I sent him were NOT poetry, but rants, disguised in poetic form. Other pieces were not finished, or too oblique, which is a big no-no, because while poetry can be mysterious, it's not supposed to be confusing.
I removed these poems, and then sent him some more work. He added the new poetry, and suggested some minor edits, which ended up making some of the poems read so much better! We went through five drafts in just under three weeks. Sometimes I got tired, and sometimes frustrated, but I looked forward to each new draft as it came along. Kenneth is an excellent editor; he's very patient, and extremely astute. He has the poet's best interest at heart, and his mission is to produce a quality collection that represents and reveals the true nature of each writer.
5. Your poetry tends to be splendidly sensual. I notice a theme of alluring - even sinful - pleasure recurring a few times. In "Unavoidable", the narrator stalls redemption because "sins are not completed" and "so many proclivities are left to explore". The narrator is gradually denuded by the parent-like sun, exposed, her "losses" unhidden. Yet the sun, whatever it might represent, doesn't seem an unfavorable force - only too early, too insistent on "this transition of truth [she's] so long avoided".
Thank you. I'm glad something about me is sensual.
A clash of "honest impulse" and quiet "decorum" appears in "Pigalle": "In passing/the whore behind the lattice/endeavors/to lure me/into her dark corner...Desire mounts/slowly/under repulsed reflex..." But the encounter is resisted in the end: "I leave quickly/armored/in my solitude."
Yes, this was my experience of being an "American" (read prude), in Paris, after touring the Museum of Erotic Art. The inhibition I felt didn't last very long. Viva La France!
the stubborn desire to finish out unexplored sins, "to be a
libertine", both a hunger for sensation and procrastination before
accepting responsibility that will finally allow love? The line "I
have never known love" in "Unavoidable" suggests this, as if
countless pleasures cannot bring true love, true warmth. Is this clash of
desire and "decorum" an admission of basic morality/truth perhaps?
I'm not sure about that. I believe it's the struggle to overcome what we a) have been conditioned to believe, b) whatever lies we tell ourselves to avoid growth. My worst and most verbally abusive ex-boyfriend of mine used to yell at me," It never does you any good to sit in your own warm pile of shit!" (Ick!), This meant, of course, you'll never get anywhere in life unless you take a risk on yourself and accept the need for growth. Too bad he never followed his own advice.
The reference to 'love' means self-love, and self-acceptance. You don't have to like yourself, but at the end of the day, the one you have to face...is YOU...for the rest of your life, so the sooner you accept yourself, warts and all, the sooner you can become a better person. Trite but true...sigh...
Thoughts on my interpretation?
I think we agree, but you said it better than I did, and with fewer words.
6. Writer Ray Bradbury wrote: "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with matches." He was infuriated at sensitive groups - "liberals" and "conservatives" and races and religions - ranting against writers' choices in their literature. Fahrenheit 451's dystopia outlawed books on the premise that everyone is offended by something in some book.
Didn't you pose this question to another writer a couple of issues ago? Are you Ray Bradbury's shill? -kidding, he doesn't need one.
I'm an outspoken critic of so-called "political correctness" (PC) and its frenzied assault on sensibility and thought-freedom. Rather than producing better situations, status, and outlooks, PC usually perpetuates bigotry, emboldens thought policing, and dehumanizes all involved. The very "enlightened" who wield the PC sword against "witch hunts", "ignorance", and endless "isms" tend to be the most stubborn with hunters, ignoramuses, and ism-obsessed folks around. And certain stereotypes/names are popularly accepted (like "redneck", "hick", "white boy", etc.).
are your thoughts on this?
you think I would list Henry Miller as one of my favorite writers if I were a
supporter of pc thinking? Of course, everyone is going to be offended by what
someone else says. It's how we act on it that defines us either racist, pc, or
in some cases refreshingly honest. I think the person who calls another person a
name in jest is worse than the one who does it deliberately. At least you know
when a person is being cruel on purpose, where he/she stands and how to deal
with it. It's the ones open their mouths and speak without thinking that cause
the tidal wave of pc to loom over us all.
know a lot of what I write and say (including this interview) will offend
people, but I have offended people my whole life, because I refuse to dumb down
for anyone...it's why I got sent home my first day of kindergarten, and had the
editorship of my high-school paper taken away from me and given to someone
else...because I refused, and still refuse, to shut my mouth. I cannot tell you
how many times I've gotten into trouble for telling someone they suck, but will
tell that same person at another time how wonderful I know she/he is...
don't know if you would define 'diplomacy' as a pc tool. I find in my role as
editor, especially in dealing with poets, that patience and tact are required to
reassure him/her I am NOT going to butcher their work, and that I am a
trustworthy editor and person. The poet who sends me 25 changes to a poem the
day before a new issue goes on-line isn't going to get a nasty email from me
about how un-professional I think he/she is for foisting more work on me at the
last minute, but I cannot help what I think-which is he/she has no business
sending out work he/she is not ready to have published. I do constantly keep in
mind - being a writer - how
terrifying it is to send that most precious, but intangible part of you to
someone else to scrutinize and publish. I have it tattooed on my brain.
Author/philosopher Ayn Rand saw Art as metaphysics concretely expressed.
The sicker one's metaphysical esteem, the sicker one's art. She wrote:
"If you see obscene, dismembered monstrosities leering at
you from today's esthetic mirrors - aborted creations of mediocrity,
irrationality, and panic - you are seeing the embodied, concretized reality of
the philosophical premises that dominate today's culture."
also emphasized: "[D]isintegration is the preface of death
to the human mind. Disintegration is the keynote and goal of modern
art - the disintegration of man's conceptual faculty, and the retrogression of
an adult mind to the state of a mewling infant."
agree with her, for the most part, seeing obsession with non-human subjects,
extremely distorted perception, and vulgar - even ugly - focus as bad art.
Your reaction/thoughts on Rand's statements?
Ayn Rand got me into serious trouble in my senior high school psychology class.
I was reading Anthem, and my teacher yelled at me in front of 33
other students. He forbade me to read Rand in his presence EVER again. I haven't
read anything else of hers since.
not sure how to address the above statement. I'm not someone who spends her time
contemplating the finer philosophical points of whether or not the chair I am
seated in at this moment is real or not.
you are referring to the 'dumbing down' of modern art to a state that the
unwashed masses (or as I like to call them, the illiterati - with affection, of
course) can accept, then yes, I agree, but all art, including literature IS
subjective. Even Truth is subjective. Would I define a blank wall as art? It's
been done - somewhere - and at some point in time, someone labeled
Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel pornography. You like my poetry,
but millions more will hate it and call it crap.
is plenty of modern art that does not fall under the category of 'bad."
It's time and history that will label modern art either a renaissance or a
cultural Black Hole of Calcutta.
you would like to see a debate on what modern art is or is not, in the bialiwick
of poetry, go to Yahoo groups and join the Cobalt (moderated by Rick Lupert)
list. That should answer this question better than I can.
giggles, an unexplained, gratuitous association exercise follows.
Identify your preference (answer under each choice):
concert or a CD?
am very vulnerable to the aural affects of music, so most of the time; I would
have to say a CD. I went to see a musical last night, and the music was so
powerful it reduced me to tears. I don't like feeling or being vulnerable.
Someday, I hope the United States will be worthy enough to join the European
Crowe or Oliver Stone?
I grew up in a desert climate, I'm going to say snow. My awareness of life
heightens when the low end of the year rolls around. Coldness fosters a sense of
intimacy that is missing amongst humans when the weather is warm: We tend to
wander, and the heat makes us bitchy (I witnessed this aplenty working many
broiling summers at Magic Mountain). And I prefer my winter wardrobe to my
summer one. It's easier to disguise my homely looks in sweaters than
in tank tops.
word or middle finger?
not a supporter of crude words or gestures. I've found staring someone in the
face and telling him or her calmly EXACTLY what you think of them to be the best
way to shut down a) my own rage, b) a potential for conflict.
Woman or Catwoman?
the Great Tyrant (wonderfully overplayed by Anita Pallenberg) from the
movie Barbarella. I actually have a custom-made Barbie doll of the Great
Tyrant on my bookshelf at home. It was a Christmas gift.
Duck or Donald Duck?
lisp is funnier than Daffy's. And he wears that neat sailor hat.
in shining armor or Johnny Depp in corduroy pants?
knight in rusty armor: like Boromir from The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R.
Tolkien). A man whose nature is innately good, falls from grace, and then
redeems himself. The man, who has learned from his mistakes, takes strength from
them, is honest to himself and others, and moves forward...HE is the best.
Your poem, "Virginity", seems to contain a moral implication
similar to "Unavoidable" and "Pigalle": a delineation
between basic desire/pleasure and soulful, true love - to the point of
preserving spiritual virginity after raw, careless sex.
telling lines: "...my
face doesn't change -- not really. My mouth -- watch! -- curves to shape that
can embrace me any way you like/Raw, quiet, from below or from behind/You can
embrace me any way you like/You'll leave no grand impression in my mind".
a powerful piece. Any words about it?
was actually researching the origin of the word 'virgin," when I saw a
story about Brittany Spears aka Federline on the Internet last year. She said
she had been sexually intimate with Justin Timberlake, but still felt like a
of the earlier definitions of the word 'virgin' is "one who is not engaging
in the act of sexual intercourse." I knew what she meant, even if the
public laughed at her.
don't particularly care for Mrs. Federline, but before I wrote the poem I spoke
to some of my female friends. We all came to the conclusion that sometimes
sex-without affection or love-leaves us feeling as though we haven't partaken in
anything transcendental. If there is no emotional bond with another, or even if
an orgasm hasn't been achieved, we are the same person we were before any of us
engaged in the "physical" side of sex.
the poem was inspired by Brittany...maybe she will see it someday and decide to
record it in a song...I want a 30% cut.
Any other art projects in the works at present?
working on a print anthology of selections from the first year of poeticdiversity.
It's called L.A. Mélange (thank you Patrick Mooney for the title), and
it should be out by December 2004. I have other things I am working on, but I
don't feel like talking about them because I don't want to jinx 'em.
Marie, poetry whored
is indeed a worthy poetry book. I dig your style and insight. And
PoeticDiversity is a splendid, important site. I hope we continue to
correspond/share. I wish you blessings on your path.
closing words for readers/fans?
have anti-fans. The biggest one is my mother. She loves me, but loathes my
writing...it's not 'happy.'
have very few friends. To them I say, "I love you, and thank you for
letting me be true to myself."
people who are afraid of me, though I don't honestly understand why, I say,
"I'm housebroken and I've had all my shots."
the world, I say," Support artistic diversity and foster a respect for the
creative expression of others."
- poetry whored by Marie Lecrivain (click on Chapbooks) -
© 2004 SubtleTea Productions All Rights Reserved